Jerusalem doctors deliver baby while simultaneously saving mom from stroke

‘There was a real sense of stress… We were responsible for two lives,’ says Shaare Zedek doctor, crediting a quick-thinking citizen for recognizing stroke and calling ambulance

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

A photo of the mother, who was rushed to Shaare Zedek Medical Center after a stroke, with her healthy baby girl. The photo has been blurred at the woman's request. (courtesy of Shaare Zedek Medical Center)
A photo of the mother, who was rushed to Shaare Zedek Medical Center after a stroke, with her healthy baby girl. The photo has been blurred at the woman's request. (courtesy of Shaare Zedek Medical Center)

With two lives hanging in the balance, doctors in Jerusalem successfully delivered a baby while treating the mother for a stroke.

The woman was nine months pregnant when she had a sudden stroke and was rushed to Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Within minutes, a team of seven doctors was working on a plan to save her life while preparing for a Caesarean section to ensure the safe delivery of her baby girl.

“The birth ended successfully and the baby was delivered safely,” said the mother, who requested not to be named publicly. “At the end of the operation, they put the baby on me for a short time, and tests and measurements came out normal.”

The woman, who is recovering at home, has now agreed to share her story, which took place last month.

Dr. Roni Eichel, head of the neurology department, said that doctors and nurses worked fervently and delivered the baby within three hours of the mother’s arrival at the hospital.

“There was a real sense of stress; after all we were responsible for not only one life but for two,” he told The Times of Israel. “Afterwards, the whole medical team was very emotional, and the next morning, when I came to the ICU and saw them, I felt a lot of joy.”

The patient, who is a lecturer, had stopped talking mid-sentence while giving a presentation, with no explanation. An audience member whose father recently had a stroke realized what was happening and called an ambulance.

Eichel and his team had never treated such a patient, as cases of strokes among women poised to give birth are rare.

“When there are strokes in young women they are normally after pregnancy, but not just before birth,” he said. “The drama for the doctors of a pregnancy stroke patient is high. You want to do everything to save the patient, while also doing everything to save the baby. That’s not easy.”

Illustrative image: nurse takes care of an infant Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on February 24, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A team of seven doctors took care of her. They performed imaging, including special CT scans that have a very accurate picture of where the closed artery causing the stroke was located. The doctors ruled out surgery and decided to use medication to try to stabilize her.

For the health of the unborn baby, doctors sought to perform the Caesarean section as soon as possible, but wanted to start to stabilize the mother first.

“We stabilized the mother enough to take her for a Caesarean section, but she still had some signs of a stroke,” said Eichel. “There was a risk that after the Caesarean section her neurological situation could get worse, but we were confident based on the scans that she would be okay.”

Dr. Roni Eichel, head of the neurology department at Shaare Zedek Medical Center (courtesy of Shaare Zedek Medical Center)

He believes that the quick thinking of the audience member who spotted the stroke and called an ambulance saved the lives of both the mother and the baby, adding that he hopes it inspires others to be vigilant.

“The main signs of a stroke are weakness in the limbs on one side of the body, difficulty speaking and facial deformity,” he said.

“In the event of the appearance of one or more of these signs, it is recommended to seek treatment at the nearest stroke unit. Awareness of the warning signs can save lives. In this case, the vigilance of the lecture participant saved her life and the life of the baby.”

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